The Rex Hotel and Jazz Bar

I needed a place to stay last minute in Toronto, quick look online and the Rex fit two main categories. It was inexpensive and well located for where I needed to be the next morning. Plus there was the bonus of live entertainment and food onsite which made for an appealing one night stay.

The Rex Jazz Bar (Hotel Entrance is around the corner to the left)
I arrived at night after a long day of surface travel

Check in at the hotel was pretty straightforward once you located the entrance, then I headed straight to the bar where a live band was setting up to play (fun note: staying at the hotel meant you get to skip the cover charge at the bar!)

Live Twelve Piece Jazz Band – You Like Jazz right?

The band was exceptional and played a variety of musical pieces, several of which were composed by various member of the band. Overall a solid performance!

After a long day of Travel, Familiar Comfort Food are the best… wait is that avocado?

At this point in the day is when I remember to eat, I ordered the Rex Burger and a cider from the menu. Wait staff were kind and managed the patrons during the breaks between songs. While it did slow the ordering process a tad, better than then trying to yell over the music.

Mason Jar Cider – Yum!

The Hotel… right… so the hotel is above the Jazz Bar, and the entrance is at the back. The receptionist is kind and originally from Ireland with a thick Irish accent (I’m heading to Ireland in three days… what a coincidence!) and the Rooms are quite spacious considering the cost.

The Room!

The bed has much to be desired (its basically a metal spring bed, good for a night but I’d be hard press to sleep comfortably on it for a week). Also of note while there is a functional sink in the room, the bathroom is down the hall and shared.

It should be pointed out that in order to stay at the Rex you really need to enjoy Jazz music until 10-11pm at night. Because the hotel is directly above the bar you will hear the jazz music until closing. Its not ear shattering, but you can’t turn it off.

Wake up to a Beautiful Toronto Morning

So I enjoyed my one night stay at the Rex, but then I love good Jazz music lulling me to sleep 🙂

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic – February 2013

Graeme and I holidayed in Punta Cana in December 2009 (2009 Dominican Republic blog entries)

This time around, it was my wife and I who were hoping to enjoy a bit of warmth and sunshine away from Ottawa’s snow-covered landscape. To travel south from Ottawa, we need to find a tour departing directly from Ottawa or else, as an alternative we drive to Montreal or Toronto to get alight from either of those two travel hubs. On this occasion, we found a Sunwing tour departing from Montreal that fit our schedule. Our flight was scheduled to leave from P. E. Trudeau airport at 9AM so, once we factored in the required three hours for check-in and the 2.5hr drive from home to airport, we decided to drive down to Montreal the day before our flight departure date and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express where for a relatively small extra fee we could park our car until our return from Punta Cana.

The drive from Ottawa to Montreal would normally be uneventful. Not this time, though. High winds and falling/drifting snow reduced visibility in some places to close to zero and added a bit of extra excitement of our trip.

Christmas Lights – Just thinking

Hallowe’en is barely out of the way and now people are beginning to think about how they are going to decorate the outside of the house for the next season of festive lighting. My favorite spot to visit, if I am in Toronto in December, is 165 Benjamin Boake Trail where the DeSario family start in October each year to cover every imaginable part of their house and front yard with twinkling bulbs and animated themes. Click on the images below to go to various Christmas light blog entries (lots of images of lights).

Toronto Christmas Lights Continue reading

Battle of the Windmill National Historic Site

Battle of the Windmill National Historic Site (Location)

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Heading for Cuba – Spring break – March 10 -17, 2012

Heading for Cuba – Spring break – March 10 -17, 2012

It was Spring break time and my wife was certainly looking forward to some R&R. Continue reading

What the eye sees – Illusions

What the eye sees – Just illusions, or is is time to upgrade to a new camera body?the Nikon D4 has been announced.

When we look at an image, our minds are filling in the blanks. We connect lines where lines might not exist. We smooth colours across a series of dots at some level of measurable resolution. We imagine what might be around the corner. All of these factors contribute to what each person sees in an image that is captured by that magical box, the camera. Sometimes, one individual will look at an image and appear to see something completely different than what someone else standing beside them might have seen. Continue reading

Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Toronto, Ontario

Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Toronto, Ontario

Our primary reason for visiting the Royal Ontario Museum on this occasion was to view the Mayan exhibit since we had visited the site of two of the Mayan ruins (Chichen-Itza and Coba) during a winter vacation in the Yucatan Peninsula. Photography was not permitted at the Mayan Exhibit so I’ve broken the ROM blog into two parts. The first part comments on the Mayan exhibit and this second part shows a few images of the main areas of the Museum.

I enjoy looking at masks and carvings from all over the world and have posted a number of mask images in previous blog entries, most notably in the blog entries for the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec and the UBC Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, B.C. It should come as no surprise then that I spent a bit of time in the ROM section that highlighted masks and carvings from Polynesia and Micronesia.

I find the beadwork on First Nation’s moccasins and mukluks fascinating so always stop and take a look at the different pattern choices. I have a couple of pairs of moccasins that were made for me by a member of the Swamp Cree of Northern Ontario. They made the interesting observation that, for themselves, they only use enough beads to make the outline while ones made for tourists get the filled-in designs. Not sure how true that is or whether or not it is just part of modern-day economizing but it is interesting to think about in terms of how the designs might change depending on the scarcity of beads or the perceived importance or wealth of the recipient.

Leaving the masks of Micronesia and the beadwork of Canada’s First Nations peoples, my next stop was in front of the costumes of European battle such as this Italian Barbut weighing in at 2.5 kg. People complaining about carrying around the weight of a DSLR should consider what it would be like to wear one of these in the field of battle.

There are lots of other interesting items on display at the Museum but I certainly didn’t have the time to photograph everything, but I did try :-).

For more information on what might be happening at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) click here to access their website directly: Royal Ontario Museum website

Medieval Times, Toronto, Ontario

Medieval Times, Toronto, Ontario

Our original plans for the evening had to be changed when we found out that the evening’s performance of Cirque du Soleil had been sold out. A bit of phoning around and we found that we could still get tickets for the evening meal at the Medieval Times, so off we went for a meal and a bit of jousting action at the Toronto castle location of the Medieval Times chain. Whenever I am purchasing tickets, I tend to like to speak to a human (I’m rather old-fashioned that way). The conversation usually starts with something like, “I would like your best price.” Of, course, I know that in the tourism industry, in particular, the ‘best price’ is a moving target what with a variety of coupon offers, association affiliations such as CAA/AAA pricing, ‘deal of the week’, seniors discounts and, of course, all of the various on-line discounters. However, more often than not, I find that the human I’m speaking to is much better at wading through the options than I am, and, in the end, once they know that I have no interest in paying the full sticker price, they usually can find some obscure discounted price that I would likely have overlooked if I had been relying solely on the on-line search approach. Such is not always the case, but on this occasion, the woman at the Medieval Times central ticket sales office was very patient and very helpful and, before long, we had a ticket confirmation number and were heading out to our dinner and a jousting tournament.

The Toronto location, referred to as a ‘castle’ in keeping with the medieval times theme, is located in a building on the Toronto exhibition grounds. Inside, there is a general hall or gathering area which is surrounded by a number of booths offering almost anything that you might imagine every good medieval lord or lady might desire; from swords to mugs to just about anything. Everyone gets to wear their own personal paper crown to get you in the mood.  Since they are color-coded, the crowns also serve as an easy way to later identify who sits in which section in the arena when it comes time to head into the arena area for meal and the tournament events.

There is one area in the hall set aside for a staff photographer to take photos, if you so desire. Looked like a pretty simple job, sort of like the Santa Claus picture process without Santa. Fun to observe though, as the photographer faced the last minute challenge of getting a large group into place just in time to get finished with photos before announcement time.

With the photography process completed, it was time for last minute instructions, a bit of friendly banter about behaving or ending up in the dungeon, and off we all headed into the arena area.

With the color-coded crowns still sitting atop our heads, the whole process of moving a large crowd of people to their proper places around the area worked out really well. As far as I know, the dungeon keeper was not required to detain anyone unduly :-).

Every good bit of entertainment requires a hero and a heroine or some such thing, so for this night’s entertainment, we began with a hero tied tight at the center of the ring and, as smoke enveloped him, he disappeared from the area, not to be heard from until much later in the show.

Tech: Light was rather dim so I upped the ISO to the 1250 – 2500 range and shot most images wide open or close to it. I was primarily using my vintage Nikon 105mm f2.5 manual focus lens. Although I have other auto focus lenses in this range, I find that this lens’ smaller size and weight works well for me in somewhat crowded environments and doesn’t draw as much attention. Because it was a fairly common lens in it’s time, it is another one of those high quality Nikon lenses from the manual focus days that is readily available at a reasonable price on auction sites such as EBay.

Our MC was now on horseback and proceeding to give advice to the audience as we were served our meal of soup and chicken and potatoes – copious quantities of everything.

Our seats at the end of the arena were not the best place from which to photograph some of the entertainment, so I often just put down the camera and sat back with my piece of chicken in hand and watched the show. The costumes of both the horses and the riders were certainly colorful and the overall choreography flowed along nicely with the pace of the meal.

I personally lost track who was doing what to whom, but, in the end, after a show of various displays of skill at horseback riding and swordsmanship and jousting, the hero returned to be victorious, the desert was served, and we all headed back out into the cool Toronto air and the world of modern lights and tall buildings.


If you like images of jousting and medieval events, take a peek at our postings for the Kingdom of Osgoode events  held in Osgoode, Ontario each summer.

Gainesville, Florida

Arrived in Gainsville, Florida about 7AM after continuous driving from Toronto, set up the tent and then cycled for 64 km on the Hawthorne trail.

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Florida Trip – Crossing the Border

We left Toronto early Wednesday morning and headed for the Windsor/Detroit border crossing. The roads in Toronto were pretty messy with a combination of ice and slush making loading the bikes onto the truck and general packing activities a bit treacherous. The highway driving wasn’t too bad as salt trucks and plows had been out in force and the road was pretty clear. Got to Windsor without incident.

We used the tunnel to cross under the river and then headed south on I-75.

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